Mike Fietz



Tapeworms depend on fleas to spread, so being vigilant can help to avoid a host of pests. File photo

Thoroughly Vetted: The ins and outs of the common tapeworm

From hookworm to heartworm, our pets can shelter no shortage of creepy crawly horrors. But few are as renowned as the tapeworm. The mere mention conjures images of people wasting away as the parasite secretly steals their lunch. Indeed, some have even tried harnessing tapeworm in a desperate (and dangerous!) bid to lose weight. There […]

Testing your dog’s DNA may sound intriguing, but there’s little to be gained in terms of medical treatment with these kits.

Using DNA to test your dog’s breed

She’s such a delightful dog, and you were lucky to find her at the shelter that day. But what exactly is she? Her cheese-curl tail evokes a shiba inu. Those droopy ears are all spaniel. And only a schnauzer could have gifted her those magnificent eyebrows. Everyone who meets her spots another breed in the […]

Just like a human cold, the feline variety has few medicinal options for immediate recovery, other than pampering and rest. File photo.

The strange truth about cats catching colds

It has to be an allergy, right? She’s been sneezing for the last few days, and her eyes are watering up. She lives indoors, and probably hasn’t met another cat since her days in the animal shelter. It just doesn’t make sense that she could have caught anything. Such is the weird truth of feline […]

Older dogs need extra attention when a puppy joins the family. Taking time alone and being sensitive to physical activities can buffer the introduction of a high-energy companion.

Generation gap: Introducing puppies to older dogs

My patient, a 12-year-old Labrador, is showing his age. Arthritis has settled into those old bones, and he’s not as active as he used to be. But he’s still a happy dog, living out his golden years in peace with a family that loves him. We’re just finishing up, but his owners have one more […]

Not only must you treat hot spots with ointment and medication, but you must keep your dog from licking and scratching at the skin. Courtesy photo

How to manage hot spots in dogs

It definitely wasn’t there yesterday. She looked completely normal before bedtime, and now there’s an oozing 3″ sore over her left hip and she won’t let anybody near it. Some dog owners are all too familiar with this story, but if it’s your first time seeing a hot spot, it can be alarming. They appear […]

Dogs who are prone to separation anxiety may benefit from an owner’s change of habit.

The woes of your pet’s separation anxiety

I knew I was in trouble within days of adopting him. If I made it all the way to the car before the barking and screaming began, I was lucky. I’d return from grocery shopping to find cracked blinds hanging lopsided above splintered windowsills, and puddles of drool creeping across the floor. My return home […]

The dog flu can leave vets and pet owners guessing as to whether a vaccination is necessary. File photo

The trouble with dog flu

It’s flu season for us humans, and the advice really couldn’t be more simple. Get your flu shot this year and every year. We are social animals who spend most of our day in relatively close physical proximity, and it’s very easy for us to get each other sick. Vaccination may provide an imperfect defense, […]

Witnessing a seizure is an alarming event for pet owners, but in some cases it’s a manageable condition.

How to live with animal epilepsy

The first time you see your pet in the middle of a seizure, it’s like time has stopped. You feel helpless, not knowing how long it will last or what will happen next. Seizures happen when electrical activity in the brain becomes disorganized, slipping free of the coordinated circuits that usually keep things running smoothly. […]

Trimming a dog’s nails can be a painless experience for both owner and animal with the right mindset and approach.

The necessary chore of clipping a pet’s nails

It starts innocently enough with some faint clicking as your dog trots across the kitchen tile. It can wait, you figure. She hates having her nails trimmed and another week won’t hurt. Until she climbs into your lap and eight dull knives dig deep into your thigh. Reluctantly, you admit to yourself that this is […]

Cat owners will argue the incomparable joy of snuggling with a purring pet.

The uncertain science of purring

Sharing my home with both a dog and a cat, I’d be hard-pressed to say which one I prefer to keep as company. They bring such different kinds of joy, and feel like two halves of a lovely whole. But my cat does have one clear advantage that no dog can match. She can purr. […]

Pet owners who cope with a diabetes diagnosis have a challenge that will eventually become part of routine care.

When dogs and cats have diabetes

I hate diagnosing diabetes. It’s a frustrating disease, made worse by the fear that washes across people’s faces when they hear the news. I see them hoping I won’t say anything about insulin injections, then watch them deflate when I finally do. Diabetes is a hormonal disorder that comes in a few varieties, but always results […]

Most ear infections are luckily caught early, and can be managed simply enough with a quick course of drops squirted in the ears, but that’s not always the end of the story. File photo

The many causes of animal ear problems

I’m sure we’d all agree that animal ears are absolutely adorable. Unlike our inert curls of skin that only seem weirder the more you think about them, cats and dogs have delightfully expressive ears. They perk up when we talk to them and flop all over the place, and are generally just fuzzy and fun […]

File photo

Choosing the right toys for your pet

Can’t anything be easy? There are a million toys on the shelf at the pet store, and you feel like you’ve been warned about every single one of them. This one has a squeaker, which you heard is a choking hazard. Your cousin’s dog got an intestinal blockage from rawhide, so that’s out. Pretty much […]

There is no right time to say goodbye to your pet.

The topic of euthanasia is emotionally complex

You’ll know when it’s time. She’ll tell you. It will be sad, but you’ll know it’s the right thing to do. Except it’s not happening that way at all. None of this makes any sense, and every decision seems wrong. She walks so slowly and can hardly be bothered to eat. It must be time, […]

Training cats is easy when you speak their language and appeal to their motivations. Photo: File photo

Teaching cats to see it your way

I suppose there’s no good time for a cat to pee in your bed, but two in the morning is particularly objectionable. Wrested from sleep by the noxious mess saturating my sock, I resigned myself to a bleary-eyed bout of laundry and mattress cleaning. This wasn’t the first time, and I needed a better solution than […]

In the event that a pet loses his vision, there are many steps an owner can take to keep him familiar with his surroundings. Photo: File photo

When pets lose their vision

There’s something magical about eyes. Sleek and precise, they seem built of different stuff than the rest of our physical selves—something more deeply connected to the root of who we are. This may be true in more than the poetic sense. Embryologically, the eyes sprout directly from the same clump of cells that go on […]

The sweet taste of rat poison and antifreeze can lure dogs into ingesting them. Photo: file photo

Not so safe haven: The dangers of common household poisons

From toilet cleaner to paint thinner, most homes are stocked with at least a few poisons that need to be kept safely away from pets and children. And while it’s certainly worth minding where you store the Windex—ammonia is nasty—I’ve never seen a pet consume any. So rather than panic about every single bottle with […]

Doggy sweaters have a practical use beyond keeping them on trend. Photo: File photo

Canine couture: When dog clothes make sense

Another year, another Internet controversy. Although it hasn’t reached the fever pitch of last year’s ambiguously colored dress, I understand that people are now very concerned about whether a dog’s pants should cover all four legs or just the hind two. There isn’t much sense to the question, of course. It’s hard to imagine any […]

Photo: File photo

An arm and a leg: The basics of animal anatomy

The leaves are crunchy beneath my feet, the comforter is back on the bed and every single thing on the menu has been ruined with an overdose of pumpkin spice. Must be autumn. This is also the unusual time of year when we hang skeletons from our front doors. If you’re a normal person, they […]

The truth about cats and dogs is that they couldn’t be more different when it comes to thyroid malfunction. Photo: File photo

Highs and lows: When your pet has a thyroid problem

“Are you a cat person or a dog person?” I’m asked on a regular basis, as if my answer might reveal some medical truth concerning the objective superiority of one species over the other. As it happens, I share my home with one of each, offering sound excuse to shrug my shoulders and dodge the […]

Your observations about your pet’s health are just as important as your pet’s veterinarian’s during a checkup. Photo: File photo

What’s the point?: The rhyme and reason of routine visits

“What are you looking for?” asks a client as my hands press deep into the sides of his dog’s belly. I’m surprised for a moment. It’s such a simple and reasonable question, but it hardly ever gets asked amidst the routine of a physical examination. I’m not even sure what to make of it at […]

Pets can enjoy snacks from your gourmet dining experience, but it’s best that it’s in small doses and not a regular part of their diet. Photo: File photo

They are what you eat: Sharing your dinner with family pets

One of the stranger artifacts of working in an animal-centric profession is the need to clarify any time that we’re talking about the human world. We find ourselves saying awkward things like “I’m going to the people doctor” and “I need to pick up some people food.” I’ve always liked the latter. It evokes the […]

Bombs bursting in air: Keeping your pets calm on the fourth

Bombs bursting in air: Keeping your pets calm on the fourth

There are few concepts more quintessentially American than gathering friends and family for a gluttonous grill-out followed by a gratuitously deafening show of explosions in the sky. While a simulated artillery strike makes for a perfectly sensible human celebration, our pets understandably tend to interpret the ruckus as the end of the world. Indeed, veterinarians […]

Taking a summer vacation? Leaving your pet in the hands of a professional caretaker will relieve their stress, and yours.

Out of town: When the pets can’t come along

With the weather finally turning its back on an all-too-frosty winter, it’s the time of year when thoughts turn to sunny beaches, cross-country road trips and foreign excursions. But even the happiest summer plans can be darkened by the problem of what to do with the pets while you’re away. As the owner of a […]

Changing lanes: Easing your transition to a new vet

Changing lanes: Easing your transition to a new vet

“He absolutely loved his old vet,” says the recent transplant to Charlottesville, making it abundantly clear that I’m about to step into some mighty large shoes. I understand the trepidation, of course. In many cases, I even share it. Your previous veterinarian is someone you built a relationship with. She knew your animals and their […]